Humanitarian challenges loom in developing Myanmar | Ashok Nigam

31 Jul 2012

 A young girl from Myanmar attends school at a refugee camp in eastern Bangladesh. A young girl from Myanmar attends school at a refugee camp in eastern Bangladesh. Photo: Jared Katz, UNDP Picture This

Myanmar is vulnerable to natural disasters and humanitarian crises. The United Nations and its partners—including national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs)—are working with the people of Myanmar to help build greater resilience in the face of both.

The worst recent natural disaster, Cyclone Nargis, struck Myanmar on 2-3 May 2008. Around 140,000 people died and 2.4 million were severely affected. On Oct. 22, 2010, in the western coastal state of Rakhine, Cyclone Giri left 45 people dead and affected some 260,000. An earthquake on March 24, 2011, in the southern part of the Shan State, near the Thai and Lao borders, registered 6.8 on the Richter scale.

These and other natural disasters have caused untold human suffering. Thousands upon thousands have had to rebuild their lives from scratch. Communal conflicts have also displaced large numbers of people.

In all instances, local communities and state actors have responded first. Neighbors have heroically helped one another, and religious groups and community leaders responded instantaneously.

Myanmar has learned from these disasters and communities have become more resilient. But the government now recognizes that international support can help further.

As a trusted partner, the UN has delivered both developmental and humanitarian assistance in Myanmar and worldwide for decades.

From north to south, east and west, the UN and its partners deliver in Myanmar where they can. In the first five months of 2012, more than half a million people in Myanmar received 10,250 metric tons of food.

Natural disasters last a few days at most and communities pick up their lives once again. Conflicts and tension can be more prolonged. Traumatized communities are weakened. Hatred and mistrust are fueled by misinformation.

In a June 20 speech, President Thein Sein underscored partnerships with the UN and civil society organizations in his plans for development. The UN and its partners stand ready to support those in need in accordance with the humanitarian principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality.

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